Like a lot of people, I was very nervous entering the game tonight. It wasn't because the Wings were taking on the Dallas Stars, a team that had beaten them twice already this season; I was anxious because it seems like the injury bug that plagued the Wings like ten million locusts last year was starting to buzz around the team again. We waited with held breaths for word that Henrik Zetterberg and Brian Rafalski would suit up, because to lose those two players against one of the better teams in the West could spell disaster. As it turns out, neither of them were necessary because Patrick Eaves is healthy and having a monster year.
The Wings opened the scoring early, when Jiri Hudler scored his second goal in as many games, but the Wings spent most of the first period chasing the Stars around the ice as they were outshot 12-4 in the frame. The Stars came out with some fire in the second period, and the Stars potted 3 goals in 74 seconds to take a 3-1 loss. However, Norris Nick Lidstrom scored his 11th goal of the season 2 minutes later to cut the lead to 3-2. Eaves scored his first goal of the night on the power play (h/t to J.J. for making the suggestion that Eaves should be on there as a righty) to give the Wings a lead they would not relinquish. In the third, the Wings got goals from Brad Stuart and Kris Draper. But Eaves potted 2 in the third, including an empty netter from inside the Wings' zone to give all of us another round of free curly fries.
This was a big game because the Wings were playing for the third time in 4 nights and they swept all 3 games. They took advantage of a tired Stars team that seemed to wilt after playing last night to gain a well-earned two points. Follow me after the jump for the bullets.
- With the way the injuries have started to pile up for the Wings lately, the news that Hank and Rafalski could miss the game was disconcerting. Obviously, them both being in the lineup was a big "wipe the brow" moment for all of us. But on a night against a team that has given the Wings fits this year, they get 3 goals from Eaves, 1 from Draper, 1 from Hudler, and 2 from defensemen. That's depth, and if the Wings can get contributions like that every few games, it will take the pressure off the top lines and make the Wings very hard to beat.
- Speaking of Eaves, he's now got 11 goals on the season, and is only 9 off his career high of 20, scored when he was a rookie. Petrella said a while ago that Eaves played his way out of the 12th forward rotation, and he has been one of the more consistent performers on the Wings this year. He didn't look out of place on the power play, he's willing to go to the net, he can play on the penalty kill, and he works hard all the time. He's a former first round draft pick, so it's not like he doesn't have any talent. It seems like he just needed to be in a situation with the right team who employ a certain style. People wonder why the Wings continue to succeed year after year, and it's because they can take a guy like Eaves who has skill and plug him into the lineup in a spot where he will thrive. We've seen it before (Dan Cleary), and I'm pretty sure we'll see it again. Patrick, thanks for the curly fries.
- This has nothing to do with the game itself, but I will be driving through Michigan on my way to visit family in Canada, and you can bet your ass I will be procuring my first ever free order of curly fries at an Arby's somewhere off of I-94.
- There was a mention during the game that no team in the NHL has beaten the Wings 5 straight times since the lockout. The Stars had won 4 straight against them going into tonight's game. You can draw your own conclusions from that stat.
- I'll be honest in saying I'm not sure what I was expecting in terms of quality of play tonight. The Stars played last night and the Wings were playing their third game in four nights. The Stars really showed signs of fatigue in the third period, and the Wings scored 4 goals on 6 shots. It wasn't the prettiest display by either team, but because the Wings were on the right side of the score board, I'll take it.
- So let me get this straight: Chris Osgood gets win number 400 the other night and looks great doing it. Now Jiri Hudler has scored in two straight games, and he has looked pretty good lately. If these two guys keep this up, we're going to run out of jokes to make at the Wings' expense, and we'll have no choice but to direct our snarkiness at the other teams. Of course, the next game is against the Islanders, so those jokes should write themselves.
- Oh yeah: Eaves is the Player of the Game. Earning an entire fan base a free salty snack at a national restaurant makes it pretty much automatic.
The Wings took over first place in the overall NHL standings with their win and Pittsburgh's loss, and they will look to close out 2010 in a positive fashion when the New York Islanders come to town in the annual NYE game at the Joe. Casey, J.J. and I will all be at various functions that evening and will be unable to partake in the game thread merriment. From us to you, we hope that you have a safe and happy New Year, and we're hoping that 2011 will bring some great joy around here.